Communities partner to expand Memorial Day celebrations

Decrease in participation sparks event change

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 8, 2019

 Members of the U.S. Air Force honor guard raise the flag for the dedication of the Veterans Tribute of Oakland Township last July.

Members of the U.S. Air Force honor guard raise the flag for the dedication of the Veterans Tribute of Oakland Township last July.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — Officials in Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township have joined forces to bring new energy to this year’s Memorial Day celebrations.

Rochester City Manager Blaine Wing said local festivities have historically begun with a flag ceremony at Mount Avon Cemetery in Rochester, followed by a parade procession to Veterans Memorial Pointe in Rochester Hills for an additional ceremony.

However, Wing said the parade portion of the celebration could not be planned in recent years due to a decrease in participation.

“Over the last two years, the parade didn’t happen. It kind of faded away for several reasons — some changes in the past organizers and participants. People move and pass away, so there hasn’t been new leadership to pick up that torch,” he explained.

This year, officials from Rochester, Rochester Hills and the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as parade coordinators from Potere Modetz Funeral Home, Pixley Funeral Home, and the Veterans Tribute of Oakland Township, have decided to revive the Memorial Day parade and move it to Adams Road, marching from Van Hoosen Middle School to the Veterans Tribute of Oakland Township.

“It made a lot of logical sense to have that as the path, plus it has a very minimal traffic impact as it’s a straight shot,” Wing explained.

The parade will be organized and run by the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce — which hosts the annual Rochester Hometown Christmas Parade — at a cost of $2,400. Wing said the fee will be split by the three municipalities, as well as the Veterans Tribute of Oakland Township. He said a subcommittee of the involved groups has been formed in an effort to raise funds to cover future parade costs.

“If we can collect some additional dollars, we can start to generate and cover the costs for in the future, so that the communities could potentially even pay less and then it will be a self-sustaining event,” Wing said. “Some of the veterans groups, even if it might be a $100 contribution towards this cause, have told us that they might be interested. And we’ve actually set up an account with the Community Foundation (of Greater Rochester) to accept donations so that people can get a tax write-off as well.”

Rochester Regional Chamber Foundation President Alaina Campbell said the chamber is  excited to partner with the communities of Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township for the 2019 Memorial Day parade.

“Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring those who have died while serving in the U.S. military. This parade will be a way that we can celebrate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Campbell said in a statement.

The three communities have also coordinated their local Memorial Day events, so community members can attend as many gatherings as their schedule allows.

The festivities will officially kick off 5-7 p.m. Friday, May 24, as 900 flags are placed on the graves of veterans from all wars and conflicts throughout Mount Avon Cemetery in downtown Rochester.

“We’ve worked with some of the Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops to help us, along with our Fire Department, and volunteers are also welcome to do the flag placement,” said Wing.

Local celebrations will continue with an 8 a.m. flag ceremony and laying of the wreath at Mount Avon Cemetery on Monday, May 27.

At 9 a.m. May 27, the city of Rochester Hills will host a Memorial Day service at Veterans Memorial Pointe, 1015 S. Livernois St.

At 11 a.m. May 27, the public is invited to participate in the new Memorial Day parade, which will travel from Van Hoosen Middle School north down Adams Road, to the Veterans Tribute of Oakland Township, 5236 Adams Road where the township’s flag ceremony will be held.

“Sustainably, this will continue on in the future and potentially even have the opportunity to grow,” Wing added.

For more information, call Maggie Bobitz at the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce at (248) 651-6700.

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